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December 24, 2005

Hearing loss no barrier for contest winner

From: Mississauga News - Mississauga,Ontario,Canada - Dec 24, 2005

Radhika Panjwani
Dec 24, 2005

The sound of silence can often be deafining.
When 11-year-old Sean Matera recently won a public speaking award, he could not hear the applause that followed the winning announcement, because Sean suffers from a hearing loss.

The Annual Junior Public Speaking Award, presented by St. Patrick's Catholic Women's League has done great things for his confidence. It showcases the determination and amazing courage of a child to overcome his disability.

Yet, the spunky Grade 6 student from the Blessed Teresa Of Calcutta Catholic School has his share of challenges as he battles to make sense of the noise around him. Sean can lip-read and has recently taken to understanding the sign language.

"It (hearing aid) has its pros and cons," he said. " I can hear the teacher with this FM microphone that she wears. But if the class is doing something and the other kids are talking simultaneously, I cannot hear them."

Karen Matera, Sean's mom recently accompanied his class on a field trip to Ontario Place. She watched her son, quietly and bravely struggling in the sidelines as others children carried on animated conversations and made no effort to include him.

"He's lost and he sometimes asks me why he had to be deaf," Karen said." I feel bad."

But Sean's never too lonely, he immerses himself in a world of books, its characters and their lives.

"My most favourite hobby in the entire world is to read," Sean said. "I read, adventure, action, mystery.... I steer clear romance books completely," he says with a theatrical shudder.

Doris Karatoprak is an itinerate teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing who visits Sean's school to help him with his studies. Karatoprak has known Sean since he started school and considers him an exceptionally talented student.

"Sean is an unusual child," she said. "He devours books and is a prolific writer. He writing skills are much above the grade expectations."

Writing has helped Sean to cope with his deafness. His stories are colourful, detailed and extraordinarily illustrated with beautiful drawings.

He crafted the prize winning speech himself with a little help and input from his grandfather.

"My subject for the speech was, War and its Effects," Sean said. "I chose it because my grandfather was a veteran in the Second World War. And he knows a lot about war."

Even though, Sean cannot hear the babble of voices around him, he can truly experience the great love and support he gets from his parents and his grandfather. And what Sean is too young to realize is, the sound of silence holds its special magic, the magic to hear through the heart.

© 2005 Mississauga News Online